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Published: 09-09-2019

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The Symbolism of a Tree in the Black Walnut Tree, a Poem by Mary Oliver

In the world people usually develop emotional connections with a lot of distinct inanimate or animate objects. This can be observed in the poem “The Black Walnut Tree” as two girls, a mother and a daughter, debate whether or not or not to sell their walnut tree. In the poem Mary Oliver reveals the delicate partnership that the females have with the tree employing poetic devices such as analogies, symbolism, and a sturdy ending paradox.

With an analogy, Mary Oliver tries to convey to the readers that there is an underlying connection that the females have with the tree. They are concerned with their inability to spend their month-to-month mortgage but there is “something brighter” that moves “in [their] blood” that prevents them from fixing this issue. This “edge” is resembling a “trowel that wants [them] to dig and sow,” pushing them to preserve the tree. This analogy shows that the tree implies one thing a lot more than just income to them. It is hard to pin-point what it indicates specifically but its roots go deep into their history.

Along with an analogy, Oliver utilizes symbolism to give the tree a far more effective connection to the girls. In the poem, the daughter thinks about her “fathers out of Bohemia,” or ancestors, and how that if they have been to sell the tree they would “crawl with shame” simply because they would be making an “emptiness” in their “and [their ancestors’] backyard.” This tree represents their connection to the their previous and obtaining rid of it would be opening a hole that could not be filled.

Then once again this tree also stands for a constant struggle. Mary Oliver does a fantastic job at hinting towards the connections that the tree and the girls have, but she also makes use of a dramatic paradox to show the other side of their relationship. Soon after they have decided to do nothing, Oliver describes that the tree “swings via another year of sun and leaping winds” much like a windy summer day. The tree brings “leaves and bounding fruit” that shows how they benefit from its beauty, but the mother mentioned that the fruit is getting “harder to gather” and the leaves are heavier. Then the accurate effect that the tree has on them, “month soon after month, the whip-crack of the mortgage,” shows the value that they should pay for their connection.

By the indicates of poetic devices such as analogies, symbolism, and the use of a paradox, Mary oliver conveys the confused partnership that the tree represents to the two ladies, a mother and a daughter. Like the two sides of a coin, the tree can be a lovely sight or it can be a terrible burden, and in the poem it is meticulously conveys to the reader.
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